HIV pill: The logic of paying 500 a month so gay men don't have to wear condoms

Steve Connor
Original Article:

At a time when the NHS is under immense financial strain – some might say bankrupt – it may seem odd to suggest that the health service pay nearly £500 a month for a gay man to take a daily pill so that he doesn’t have to wear a condom.

However, the scientists behind this clinical trial believe that a policy of offering daily drugs aimed at curbing new HIV infections within certain high-risk groups of men who have sex with men may actually save the NHS money in the long term.

Prophylaxis is about avoiding disease. In this case, a daily dose of Truvada, a combination of two anti-retroviral drugs, could in some circumstances avoid HIV infection and the associated lifetime costs of treating a man with HIV-Aids.

In Africa, clinical trials have shown that people who are already HIV-positive become less infectious when given anti-retroviral therapy because the drugs lowers the viral load circulating in their bloodstream. Some scientists have even suggested that widespread use of anti-retrovirals could curb the HIV epidemic in Africa and may even snuff it out within a generation.

The Proud trial is fundamentally different. For a start it is about giving drugs to HIV-negative individuals, rather than HIV-positive patients, in order to prevent them becoming infected in the first place. Secondly, the trial was directed at gay men, specifically those who did not always wear condoms during high-risk sex.

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